A thought recently entered my head, as it does sometimes: I’m curious which vehicle has the highest horsepower split between the base model and the top-end version. I thought about this because I often describe the Dodge Demon as a situation where Chrysler put 800 horsepower in a rental car — and when I really considered that, I realized that’s precisely what they did. And the result is a huge horsepower split.
It’s a split of 503 horsepower, in fact — a massive number that separates the base-level Challenger (305 horsepower) from the Demon (808). And that has to be the biggest horsepower split in the car industry, right? Even the Corvette "only" goes from 455 to 755 (a 300-horsepower difference); the Ford Focus’s 123 to 350 is respectable, but 277 falls well short of the number needed to win this challenge. The BMW 5 Series does well: the base model has just 248 horsepower, while the M5 has 600. But, again, this isn’t enough, as that’s a split of just 352 horses. Same with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (241 to 603, for a difference of 362).
Then I started thinking historical cars. The car I’ve always said has the highest overall difference between the base model and the top-end version is the Mercedes-Benz CLK, which runs the gamut from the entry-level CLK 320 (in North America, anyway) all the way to the insane, race-car-for-the-road CLK GTR. But even here, the power difference doesn’t beat out the Demon: The base-level CLK 320 had 215 horsepower, while the CLK GTR had 604 — an impressive difference of 389, but not close to 503. Even if you consider the European models, the base-level CLK 200 had 134 horsepower, meaning the split was 469 horses — a big number, yes, but still not 503.
With all this in mind, I have to ask: Can anyone think of a car with a bigger horsepower split from the base model to the top-end version? Or is the Challenger the all-time winner, providing a horsepower span that’s more than the total horsepower of a Ferrari F430?
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.